Cardinal Quevedo’s questionable loyalty

Orlando Cardinal Quevedo (photo by PGIN)

First, dear karikna, let me let you realize how powerful this man is. In a church of 1.2 billion members, he belongs to the top brass. He is one of only 117 existing cardinal electors (cardinals below 80 who are qualified to elect a pope) of the Roman Catholic Church, and one of only two in this country of almost 80 million Catholics. That makes this man one in many millions. Considered a “Prince of the Church” vested by the Vatican not only with religious powers but also with political might, His Eminence Orlando Cardinal Quevedo is definitely an influential man.

Last Sunday, March 31, the 75-year old church leader visited his hometown to the grandest hero’s welcome ever seen in Ilocos, next only to the arrival of President Ferdinand Marcos’ remains in 1993. Quevedo was born in Laoag City in 1939 to parents who are both natives of nearby town Sarrat. The family later on transferred to Marbel, South Cotabato. He makes history as the first cardinal from Mindanao, and the first Ilocano, too.

I must say, however, that though he is a kailian, I was disappointed upon hearing his appointment as Cardinal last January. To explain why, let me refresh your memory. Continue reading “Cardinal Quevedo’s questionable loyalty”

Nuestra Señora de la Mantsa: The Case of the Laoag City Bell Tower ‘Apparition’

And we did it again.

Ten years ago, I wondered in an essay why this Catholic Nation has produced only one saint so far while Thailand, Japan and China–all non-Christian countries–have more. Maybe, unlike Filipinos, I said then, people from those nations have more sensible things to do than creating miracles by desperately looking for images in the stains of tree trunks and forcing statues to shed bloody tears.

Recently, an image of a woman, believed by many as Mama Mary, reportedly appeared at the midsection of the Laoag City Sinking Bell Tower. With pictures of the ‘apparition’ circulated on Facebook, the phenomenon generated public interest, especially after it was featured on national television evening news.

Make no mistake, I love Mama Mary, and I always turn to her for guidance and protection, but, on a personal level, and with all due respect to anyone who does, I don’t believe the image is extraordinary. The blurry figure is obviously a product of stain and discoloration which any old structure, such as the 400-year old Laoag Bell Tower, would have. You can find stains anywhere and assume them to be something, anything. My friend Luvee from Pagudpud says there are also a lot of stains in their toilet wall, and, as a child, it was her hobby to spot them and identify certain images, some of them religious. Rizal Javier, a retired philosophy professor from Batac, is obviously no longer a child but he still spots some images in their restroom and has actually considered publishing those in his Facebook account. There was one problem though: he does not have a Facebook account. Continue reading “Nuestra Señora de la Mantsa: The Case of the Laoag City Bell Tower ‘Apparition’”

Why did God create mosquitoes?

I have asked this question since I began to ask intelligible questions. Pesky and dangerous, nobody is happy with mosquitoes, except businessmen behind insecticides and insect-repellants, crocodiles in pharmaceutical firms, and doctors who, while charging sickening fees, pay, if at all, below minimum-wage taxes.

I am sure you know somebody who has suffered from dengue. And the victim could be anybody: man or woman, old or young, rich or poor, sinner or saint, Noranian or Vilmanian.

I attended the funeral of a fifteen year old boy recently, and it was one of the few occasions tears rolled down my cheeks (I shed tears twice a year on average). A graduating student at a science high school, the boy had a whole life ahead of him. He was an achiever, a good son and brother, an astute citizen and believer in God. But there he was lying in a white coffin, fate sealed by a mosquito’s kiss. Continue reading “Why did God create mosquitoes?”

Refusing ninonghood

I received today another invitation to a baptism, it reads: “I, Chery May, invite you to come and join me to witness my christening on the 27th day of April, 2011, 10:00 a.m. at Saint William Cathedral, Laoag City.” I am asked to be a godfather to the cute baby whose photo appears in the invitation, together with an image of Hello Kitty.

I have made it clear to my friends that I am uncomfortable being a “ninong,” given the serious responsibilities attached to it. I am not referring, dear karikna, to the customary gifts during Christmases and birthdays, but to the guidance I have to provide, and this is the most important function of a ninong, on how to grow up a good Catholic.

How can I be a credible witness to the Catholic faith when I am in the middle of a campaign for the passage of the Reproductive Health Bill, a vital piece of legislation that the Church, using medieval logic, vigorously opposes? How can I help usher a young soul to a faith that still considers homosexuality as a natural anomaly? And how will I explain to an adult Cherry May all the hypocrisy in an institution rocked with scandals of every kind?

It is not, however, easy to turn down invitations to ninonghood because, in Filipino culture, such has great implications in the social context more than in the spiritual realm. Refusing to be a ninong can be insulting to the refused, and the reluctant godparent may find himself a few friends poorer. Good thing that I am not a politician, and have no intentions of seeking any elective post, not in the near future, and neither in the most distant tomorrow.  And so I can say “no, sorry, can’t be a ninong.” Continue reading “Refusing ninonghood”

Qualified mea culpa

ALLOW ME to stress that although we look at the clergy with critical eyes, we have all the respect for the Catholic Church and for all religions and beliefs.  We maintain that as public personalities, bishops and priests must not be spared from our collective expressions of rikna and nakem.  We love the church, and that same love causes us pain when she is betrayed, and with neither shame nor remorse, by the very people she was entrusted to.

I will be the first person to ban comments that employ Argumentum ad Hominem (Attack against the person).  I would not even allow name calling here.  Happily, so far, I think no one has gone overboard.  We are very level-headed in our discussions, although I understand that some readers may be very close to the church, and so their emotions may get into the way.

We look forward to the day when  we can really look up to our bishops and priests for moral guidance, in word and in deed.  That end cannot be achieved if we decide to be silent when we can choose to speak.  That we are having these arguments already points to these shepherds’ failure to unite their flock.  Their actions cause confusion and division, and poor we should not be faulted for airing out our frustrations.

And yet all the things I write I write not out of malice nor ignorance.  My sources are reliable.  My analysis comes not from thin air but from careful discernment and reflection.  Truth to tell, I come from a family deeply immersed in the Catholic faith.

Just the same, my apologies for the hurt.

Church unwittingly endorses vice

ash-tray

I visited the Catholic Church in Batac recently, and found this among the souvenir stuff they were selling at the parish office.  While I would not say that smoking is evil and that smokers are baaad folks, I feel uncomfortable with this apparent endorsement of the vice.  I would appreciate your thoughts on it. Continue reading “Church unwittingly endorses vice”

Hitler’s visit, unbearable speeches, amazing Miss Laoag tilt …and other notes on Pamulinawen Festival 2009

ms-laoag

Let me begin by saying ‘Congratulations’ to everyone behind the festival. I know they put in a lot of hard work in the fiesta preparations. By now, I hope they have managed to catch up on sleep, and that their eye bags have disappeared.

I acknowledge that writing a review like this one is a breeze, nothing compared to all the organizers’ sacrifices. They were actors, I was just a spectator. They labored while I savored the moments. I will therefore cushion the blows. Continue reading “Hitler’s visit, unbearable speeches, amazing Miss Laoag tilt …and other notes on Pamulinawen Festival 2009”

NO to beauty pageants… and political invocations

bb-pp2

Not once, but twice!

As with the past years, at least two beauty pageants are touted as highlights of the 2009 Pamulinawen Festival. The Search for Ms. ABC (Association of Barangay Councils) was held on February 4 at the Centennial Arena while the Search for Ms. Laoag is slated on February 10 at the same venue.

More mature societies have already shunned the idea of the traditional beauty pageant. Radical feminist groups, in particular, have lambasted beauty tilts as a form of exploitation of women and the perpetuation of a patriarchal concept of human aesthetics.

For what is a beautiful person? Organizers, of course, harp on the idea that beauty comes from within, blah, blah. But the competition criteria belie this. The minimum height requirement is 5’3”. Plus, you must look good in a swimming suit and, ergo, you must have a softdrink-bottle-shaped physique.

Such pageants, of course, would claim that they promote beauty with a purpose. This is why they are known for tokenism as well, which means doing something in a highly visible manner, though with almost-zero impact. Continue reading “NO to beauty pageants… and political invocations”

Pretentious & meaningless, Pamulinawen Festival kicks off

St. William the Hermit, Patron of Laoagueños, did not exactly relish fiestas
St. William the Hermit, Patron of Laoagueños, did not exactly relish fiestas.

The revelry leading to the February 10 Feast Day of St. William, patron of the city, begins today.

The Laoag City Fiesta I have grown up to know was simple, dry, and forgettable.  There were strings of parades, yes, but with very little  fanfare.  Then until now, the main attraction is a karnibal, which is not even 1/1000 as good as Enchanted Kingdom, located under the Gilbert Bridge.  There, I remember going to freak shows of sirena (mermaid), babaeng ahas (lady snake), babaeng pusit (lady squid), and other human beings whose physical deformities have been exploited in cash ‘s name. Continue reading “Pretentious & meaningless, Pamulinawen Festival kicks off”

Why the National Anthem must precede invocations

Illustration by Ronaldo "Ronmac" Macalma, my student and favorite cartoonist
Illustration by Ronaldo "Ronmac" Macalma, my student and favorite cartoonist

Yesterday, your  karikna was invited to speak in a seminar-workshop in the University.  As the Opening Prayer came before the Philippine National Anthem, yet again, I was reminded of this article written (and sent to me) by Manuel Quezon III, explaining why it should go the other way instead.  Quezon III–grandson  of the illustrious Philippine Commonwealth president–is a journalist, political pundit, and historian.


Country first always

WHICH should come first in a public ceremony: an invocation, or the national anthem? To any Filipino before the 1990s, the answer would have been as simple as it would have been instinctive: obviously national anthem first, then invocation. This was the way it was always done; this is the way it is done elsewhere. Even the Vatican City State has a national anthem, and the Pope stands at attention at the playing of the anthem of his state with that of any state he happens to visit, and only afterwards proceeds to invoke God and bless the people, after the state rituals have been concluded. This is the way things should be. But somewhere along the line, and I believe it began only within the last decade and a half, things have changed in our country. Continue reading “Why the National Anthem must precede invocations”